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Athlete Sheds Light on Mental Health

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a conference, “Suicide and the Black Church” that was hosted by a local church. The fact that it was created and coordinated by a church impressed me.

During one of the breakout sessions, one of the facilitators informed attendees about a documentary film called “Mind Games” that he had recently produced. The person that the documentary highlighted was well known in the sports arena and significantly associated with the venue of the conference.

But it has only been during recent years that Chamique Holdsclaw’s name has been associated with mental health advocacy.

If you are a basketball fan, then you should be familiar with the name Chamique Holdsclaw. Her athletic accomplishments are up there with the greatest of them.  They are discussed in one of her many books including, Breaking Through. Although she had already been given many accolades during her high school days, Chamique’s athletic career really jump started when she was recruited by University of Tennessee Knoxville coach, Pat Summitt.

Throughout Chamique’s speech, detailing her experiences with mental illness, she frequently referenced her former coach for the great impact she had on her life.

Personally, I could barely hold my tears captive as I eagerly listened to her tell a story that I could so easily relate to. Although I have been advocating for mental health for years, it is something empowering about hearing someone else who has been where you have or currently are.

The testimonies of others motivate you.

Listening to others share their real pain encourages you out of your dark place.

It says that you are not alone and it is a part of life to be where you have currently found yourself. But the good news is that you don’t have to stay there. Just as that person got through their difficult times and discovered their strength, so can you.

Doesn’t it feel good just to know someone else actually understands what you often find challenging to articulate to others?

Mental disorders affect everyone.  It is empowering when various backgrounds, cultures, and communities can raise up an advocate who can help champion the cause. We naturally relate better to those like us or who have similar interests.

Athletes are not exempt from mental illnesses. Despite how strong and resilient they are and how they are forced to stand on the high pedestal that fans, media and coaches place them on, they still must play the game of life. And when you feel the pressure of not showing any signs of weaknesses to your team, coach and fans, masking a mental disorder can be very difficult to juggle even on a familiar court.

By Chamique and other athletes having authentic conversations about mental health, it helps other athletes to also reach out for help. Especially those not in the professional arena such as junior varsities and collegiate sports.

But before these courageous athletes developed the boldness to share their personal struggles, they had to accept their own truths.

This is a relevant step among athletes and any one dealing with a mental illness. The shame and stigma associated with mental health care has to be removed. This will allow each person to break his or her silence when they find themselves in what seems like a hopeless situation.

So my hats off to Chamique Holdsclaw who has now liberated herself from the perspective of others and doing what she feels free to do.  Be sure to watch the documentary film, “Mind Games” by Rick Goldsmith. To learn more about Chamique Holdsclaw story, click here.

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Life Can Seem Meaningless

Have you ever felt as though you were stuck in a rut? You know that feeling where you have reached the point of being tired of being tired. You feel drained, stagnated and completely worn out.

I believe everyone experiences at least a moment of what I just described.

If you are affected by a mood disorder such as anxiety, bipolar or depression, then unfortunately, you know all too well what I have described.

It can be very challenging trying to balance everyday living while living with a thorn that constantly reminds you how hard it can be just to get your day started.

The battle can become so overwhelming that it makes you wonder: “Is there really any meaning to life at all?”

Well, I don’t know if this will help you feel any better. But did you know the wisest man had to combat that same ideology?   King Solomon, son of David, wrote an entire book about how meaningless life is. It is called Ecclesiastes.

The first chapter of the book declares, “Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (1:2, NIV).

If a man considered to be the wisest of his time felt that life was meaningless at some point in his life, what does that say about life itself and man or woman in general?

Solomon continued his logical rant throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. As someone who ruled a nation and therefore, experienced many of life triumphs and tragedies he had a great perspective on life.  He saw how each day seem to repetitiously repeat itself; the sun rising and setting, the flow of the sea, laboring, eating and sleeping, etc.

His pondering led him to declare that it all seemed like a mere “chasing after the wind” (v14c).

When you are struggling to start your day, balancing family and work, and finding it difficult to take care of your basic necessities of life, it can feel as though you are chasing after the wind.  Do you know of anyone who has ever caught up to the wind?

Neither do I.

Chasing after something that you will never catch can make it seem meaningless. Especially when you are chasing after the wrong thing.  Recently, when I found myself becoming overwhelmed and overtly discouraged about things in my life, God had to remind me that I was chasing after the wrong things.

Sometimes we are ‘chasing’ after things that we desire or even need. But our ‘chasing’ can be in the form of distractions or taking the initiative to do things to better our lives. But we can become so exhausted by doing what we think is the right thing for our situation.

This is when we have to take the time to be still.  It is easy to become entangled in our problems and the dishearten task of trying to solve them. But this demand that we place on ourselves clouds our focus and judgment, effecting our ability to make healthy decisions and our perspective on the temporary situation.

Life seems meaningless when we have disconnected God from it. God is the giver of life and it is God who orchestrates our lives with a purpose.

What did the great wise man conclude in this matter?

That we all have a common destiny. And that God is in control of it all.

“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (13b-14).

Take a break from the daily routine you have created and intentionally include God in it. Chase after Him by making Him the core and highlight of your day. Allow God to restore your hope. He will show you that there is a special meaning to your life!

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Mental Health Affects Your Teen

Today is a special Monday or me and my family. It commemorates the day that my 15-year-old brother’s life was lost by suicide.

Marchello is the reason why I advocate for mental health and especially for suicide prevention. My advocacy includes everyone because mental health affects everyone.

However, my two main focus areas are adolescents and the faith-based community.

Did you know that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for the age group 15-24? –  Source: AFSP

As you see, my brother fell within this range.  And as I discuss in my book of mental health memoirs, his death greatly affected me during my adolescent years.

So, if you are a parent of a teenager, I challenge you to initiate open conversations with them that will allow them to authentically engage with you. You might be thinking that “my child doesn’t have any mental health problems”.  But there are many factors that can cause your child not to be mentally healthy.

One step that parents can take in monitoring their teen’s mental health status is to be aware of present stress in their child’s life. Again, this requires fostering a healthy environment for effective communication.

If you are looking for tips to help you get started, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a great place to start. By the way, they are also hosting their 2017 Mental Health Advocacy Forum today that will discuss several relevant topics that affect all age groups.

Click here to virtually attend any segment of the all-day forum.

If you want more insights regarding my brother’s life, you may download the book now or order your print copy.

Remember, you can help stop suicide!

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Exercise Goodness

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Have you ever run a race or started a vigorous exercise routine before?  Do you recall how you had to discipline your body to get your muscles and limbs moving? You should also remember that second your body became so tired that you felt as though you were going to faint.

It took willpower to keep you running to that finish line or not to allow yourself to simmer down from a 30-minute-high impact exercise until you reached your set time.

Although you probably did not expect to see immediate results during your exercise or in the middle of your race, it felt good to surpass each milestone and you were hopeful for an expected end.

It is considered normal for one to grow tired for doing something challenging or that is not routine.

But what about doing things that do not take much effort or that your body or mind has been trained to do? Your first week of starting and exercise routine is not as challenging as your fifth week. Why? Because your body has gotten use to exercising.

Why do you think one would become faint or weary in doing good things?

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10

Have you ever passed by a homeless person in need or any stranger and felt the urge to help them? These are good deeds, but they are often random acts.

The challenge comes when we are able to do good needs to those that we know, those we are in relationships with. Why? Because relationships cause you to really get to know people and experience their good and bad character. It places you in a position of vulnerability to get hurt by people.

Are you able to do good deeds to those who have hurt you?

Now you understand the ability to become faint by doing good.

But if we are exercising every opportunity to do good to all people, specifically those we know, we won’t grow as weary.  We won’t grumble or complain about why we are having to help those that have hurt us.

Instead, we will not give up or withhold our goodness because we know that we will receive our reward from God, not people, at the appointed time.

So today, I encourage you to exercise the fruit of Goodness!

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Relax, Relate and Read

You have been looking forward to the weekend and for June to make its arrival. This means that summer is officially around the corner!

What do you have planned?

I sure do hope that relaxation is intentionally on your agenda.

I don’t know about you, but this past Memorial Day I did not leave the house and barely moved out of my bed.  And you know what else? I didn’t feel guilty about it one bit!

My weekend had consisted of volunteer service, my daughter’s graduation, a home going service, two speaking engagements, two book signings and a wedding!

So yes, I believe that a day of relaxation was well deserved.

Now, admittedly, I almost allowed a guilty bone to surface that would force me to work on the many tasks that I had on my to-do-list. But before giving into my workaholic mindset, I read a post from the blot, “Thriving Under Pressure”.  And guess what Dr. Andrea gave me permission to do in few words?

You guess it. Relax!

This too is your reminder to relax this weekend and this summer in case you have a guilty battle going on right now.

What if I told you that while you relax you could also have the opportunity to enjoy a smooth glass of wine, read a book on a new Kindle Fire and have a gift card to purchase the latest good reads?

Sounds awesome, huh?

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A great way to relax is to read a great book.  I invite you to be a part of the Meet & Greet Giveway and you will be able to connect with authors and enter a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card, a 7 ” Kindle Fire and a bottle of wine!

How?

It’s simple.  Just CLICK HERE and you will be able to submit an entry everyday up until June 30!

So, go ahead and get that glass ready.  Plan to relax.  And select a book to add to your library.  I might be a little biased, but I do have some suggestions for you.

Be sure to get your entry counted for today!

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Being Thankful in the Process

Life will cause us to experience natural storms that will temporarily inconvenience us.

Then there are the every day storms that interrupt our days in the form of difficult obstacles, unhealthy stress and broken relationships.

What do you do when a storm uproots your life sending a tornado of chaos into your day?

Recently, storms caused a surmountable amount of damage in various areas of the mid-south. People found themselves without power, transportation and even shelter. There soon became a high demand for the basic necessities of food and water.

Having to endure this kind of unforeseen setback can be very frustrating. It can stimulate many emotions to arise. Most of them being unhealthy ones.

So what do you do during the process?

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father,” (Colossians 1:9-12, NIV).

When you are walking around in the dark trying to find relevant things to get you through your storm, panic is a natural reaction or thought. But it is in these times that you have to train your flesh to yield to your spirit.

One of the first things that the people of God do when hearing of someone experiencing a crisis is to pray. It is comforting knowing that others are praying for you when you are in the midst of a storm or crisis situation. But you also have to use your strength and power to pray to God and praise Him while you are going through the process.

Yes, your situation might be bad. But it could have been worse. We don’t always identify the blessings first when we are hit by tragedy. However, it is important to develop a spirit of gratitude, one of thanksgiving first when experiencing a challenging moment in life.

The enemy would rather have you be filled with complaints and bitterness when you are drowning in lemons. The enemy would rather watch you cry over the lemons instead of seeing the opportunity to make lemonade.

I challenge you to see past the unpleasant picture that is causing an eye sore to you right now. What blessing is being blocked from your vision right now? What do you have to be thankful for right now?

Try being thankful in the process and you will start to release blessings in your situation. And what seems like the worst day or situation will soon turn to a not as bad as it appears moment. Then you can start moving forward allowing God to finish processing you through this!

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Ministering to the Mind

How has your Monday been going?  Are you feeling better today than you were yesterday?

If so, great!

If not, why?

Let me take a guess at it. Yesterday, you were feeling a little bit down from either missing someone, being discouraged from one disappoint after another or receiving some not so good news and some how you muscled up the energy to make your way to church.

Although you didn’t have the energy to participate in praise and worship, it felt good just hearing the praise team or choir sang some of your favorite songs.

You could not figure out why your mind and body would only allow you to be a mere spectator when you enjoy singing and dancing unto the LORD.

As I discussed in my previous blog post, even Christians can find themselves in a state of depression. But what do you do? How do you handle it?

Perhaps the praises that went on around you were seeds planted to give you the courage to ask a minister for prayer during altar call or after the pastor preached his empowerment message.

Maybe you remained in your seat because you were too ashamed to confess your present needs. Did any one notice you were not yourself? Did any one reach out to you before you left?

Let’s say you were approached by someone or you did ask for prayer. I trust that you received an invitation to communicate with God. When Christians are going through a rough time, it is very comforting to know that God is always available to talk to.

But what else did the minister or concerned church member offer you? If prayer was the only thing, this could be why you are feeling the same way today.

God wants to minister to every aspect of your life. The mind is one of the most imperative areas that needs to be attended to. As I discuss and state in my book of mental health memoirs, it is unfortunate that a lot of ministers are not trained in counseling or mental health issues.

Even so, “a trained minister would know that whether or not he or she does not have the expertise in helping someone does not mean they are not obligated to help connect the person to resources” (Hastings, 2017 p.19).

You can have faith and still deal with disorders such as anxiety, bipolar, depression and even suicidal ideation. You just have to come into the full knowledge about what God says about you and the temporary or chronic disorders you find yourself experiencing. God does not want us to be ignorant in such matters: “For in all thy getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).

I do pray that your day gets better. If you need a little push on how to do the work to make it better, I encourage you to try the Faith Master Mind Coaching program. You do not have to do this alone and you don’t have to be ashamed.

Break the barrier today!

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